Tennessee quarterback Joe Milton III was the Vols’ starting quarterback for the first two games of the 2021 season. After a relatively quick injury paved the way for Hendon Hooker to take over the starting job, Hooker’s ACL injury 14 months later has Milton back in the driver’s seat for the final regular-season game of the 2022 season.
As Tennessee continues to prepare for in-state rival Vanderbilt this weekend, the Volunteer players have full confidence in Milton.
Despite losing the starting position over a year ago, Milton’s teammates have been raving about his tireless work ethic, his infectious personality, and his ability on the field.
“We have all the confidence in the world with Joe Milton,” running back Jabari Small said on Tuesday. “I was talking to one of the trainers yesterday. In practice, last week when Hendon was in, Joe would be right behind me while I’m in the huddle. He was preparing like he was QB1 throughout the whole year. He has definitely prepared for this opportunity. It was just timing, you know what I mean? He was going to get his chance. Hate that it had to be on these circumstances but he is more than ready.”
Milton has had 33 attempts over the span of five games this season, all except for the most recent South Carolina appearance coming in late-game blowouts. The senior quarterback has been able to show off his rocket arm, but even in the small sample size, does look more comfortable in the pocket than he did at various times during the 2021 season.
“He’s extremely ready,” Tennessee center Cooper Mays said on Tuesday. “I think yall have kind of seen with a lot of the work that he’s put forward this year. He’s played in games, a good bit of games, and he’s coming. I think he’s done a really good job every time. Obviously, it’s probably a little bit different when you come out in the game, you know, most of the games we’ve been playing in he’s probably had the pretty good lead and everything. But just the growth that I have seen from him this whole last year, growing and learning under Hendo and coach Heupel and coach [Joey] Halzle, I think everybody has a lot of faith in him.”
More from RTI: Joe Milton III at Tennessee: By the Numbers
Joe Milton has an infectious energetic personality that his teammates get to see every day. Luckily for everyone else, though, one of those moments shined through during the postgame of the Missouri victory in Knoxville.
Hendon Hooker leading the band in Rocky Top post-game on senior day.
Also, Joe Milton having a good time behind Hooker. pic.twitter.com/Hp6CCBeYky
— THE VOLUNTEER (@ALLVOLNEWS) November 12, 2022
“He’s very jovial,” Mays said about Milton. “He’s a guy that’s always going to have a lot of juice and good energy. He’s grown a lot as a leader and developed a lot as a person. I think he has a very consistent attitude and he’s got a lot of juice. He’s always going to have everybody’s back in the locker room and is always going to be the same person every day.”
Cooper Mays recalled one play from Milton that he remembers shocked him this season. But, at the same time, Mays says Milton makes spectacular plays and throws happen all the time during practice.
“I don’t know which throw it was,” Mays said on Tuesday. “I think it was maybe versus Missouri. On one of the passes that he had, it seemed like he was stepping back with pressure in his face and threw it 65 yards. It’s pretty unreal. You don’t see a lot of quarterbacks throw it 65 yards in the air with a crow hop like a baseball player. He can just flick his wrist and it’s going about 65 or 70. He does that stuff every day in warmups. It’s not really a surprise, but just seeing it every day is like, ‘wow, that’s unreal.'”
— Stadium (@Stadium) November 13, 2022
Vanderbilt will host Joe Milton and AP No. 9 Tennessee this Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. ET in Nashville.